Cocktail Hour: The Brooklyn

Photo by Kristy Leibowitz, taken at the Brooklyn Historical Society

You’re probably familiar with the Manhattan, the classic cocktail combination of rye whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and a maraschino cherry.  But did you know that three of the other boroughs of New York have cocktails, too?  Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens all have their own variations–sorry, Staten Island.

This week, we’ll look at these outer borough concoctions starting with The Brooklyn.

There’s a more famous version of the Brooklyn than the one I’m going to share (recipe here).  I found this “Brooklyn” by poking around on good ‘ole Google Books; it’s from a 1910 issue of Mixer and Server, and the cocktail has a charming story attached to it:

Cincinnati Man Invents Concoction Guaranteed To Produce Results

There’s another new cocktail in town. This time, Brooklyn Borough has the distinction of naming it.

It’s the Brooklyn cocktail. Manhattan and The Bronx have been similarly honored; Richmond and Queens have yet to be heard from.

The inventor of the new drink is from the Rhine section of Cincinnati, and strangely enough now has his abode in Brooklyn, his lounging place being the Schmidt cafe, just at the right hand as one leaves the Brooklyn end of the bridge, first saloon you come to…

Hard cider is the basis or body or life or whatever it is of the drink. The ingredients are as follows:

Half a whisky glass of hard cider emptied into a long glass in which are three good-sized lumps of ice.

Half a jigger of absinthe.

Fill glass to brim with ginger ale.

Only three ingredients it will be seen. When asked what his excuse was for naming a pint of liquid a cocktail, Herr Hegeman [the creator] said: “I know a cocktail is supposed to be a small drink, but there is no law about it.  And I wanted Brooklyn to be known by a cocktail.”

The inventor recommends the drink for hot weather.  —New York Telegraph

A few notes:

  • “Richmond” is the old name for Staten Island
  • “The Rhine section of Cincinnati” – Cincinnati, Ohio had a large German immigrant population, second only in size to New York.

And on the drink: it’s great.  I recommend a little less absinthe: I use only a bar spoon.  Absinthe’s strong anise flavor can overpower the drink, but used in moderation it marries beautifully with the cider and ginger ale.  Additionally,  the drink takes on a characteristically cloudy color when the Absinthe hits the iced liquid.  It’s quite dramatic, and very mysterious looking.

The Brooklyn Cocktail is refreshing, it is great for hot weather, and it’s wonderfully easy to make.


The Brooklyn Cocktail
From Mixer and Server, via The New York Telegraph, 1910.

3 Ice Cubes
4 oz. Hard Cider
1 bar-spoon Absinthe (about a teaspoon or less)
Ginger Ale

Place ice in a tall glass. Add cider, then absinthe, then fill glass to the brim with ginger ale.


There is also a neighborhood specific “Carroll Gardens” cocktail, created by the folks at Death & Co., that I have yet to try.

UPDATE: There is also a Red Hook Cocktail, named after another Brooklyn ‘hood. (Thanks, Pitchaya!)

10 thoughts on “Cocktail Hour: The Brooklyn

  1. That is not the Brooklyn recipe that historically won out though. That one (which is one of my favorite Manhattan variations) is rye whiskey, dry vermouth, Maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon (a dark, bitter orange French liqueur). I can check later as to when it was first published.

  2. I haven’t had that but I could see how it would work well considering that I’ve had pairs of those flavors before but not all 3 at once.

    Although the cider part makes me think of another old school drink, the Stone Fence.

  3. While no “Staten Island” per se, as you note it was AKA Richmond and still bears that in its NY county name…. there did appear a Richmond cockatil in the classic cocktail tome “The Savoy Cocktail Book” .

    • Good call. “The Dictionary of Drink” says it’s 2 parts gin and 1 part lillet, shaken with ice and strained, with a lemon twist. I’d try that.

      • I saw one recipe adding some other adjuncts but it seemed that they were trying to approximate the old classic Lillet Rose— not the much available Lillet Blanc.
        Good news , Lillet Rose has just been recreated and re-hit the market ! With a hint of quinine in it, it should pair very well with gin.

  4. I just read about that! And that sounds even better. If I brought a flask of this on the Staten Island Ferry, would that be inappropriate.

    Perhaps I should consider doing a five borough cocktail crawl.

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